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TransPennine Express and Northern franchise bids open

The future of the TransPennine Express and Northern Rail franchises is up for public debate, after the DfT launched a consultation to gather views on service improvements and design. It is being conducted with Rail North, an alliance of local authorities and passenger transport executives in the north, which will also have a role in managing the franchises under its partnership with the DfT.

The DfT has also launched two prospectuses outlining the details of the franchises to prospective bidders, and an OJEU notice. Expressions of interest are now being sought from the market for either or both of these franchises, with the contracts commencing in February 2016.

The OJEU states that parties which are successful at being shortlisted for a franchise will receive the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the relevant franchise. It is expected that this will be issued in December 2014 and that the deadline for the submission of tenders will be in April 2015.

The closing date for consultation responses is 18 August 2014.

Transport minister Stephen Hammond said: “The public consultation invites views from the public and from stakeholders on the improvements to service levels and facilities that passengers may wish to see, in order to provide a railway that supports the growth in passenger numbers we expect to see and delivers the wider economic benefits it is capable of.”

He added that there have been great improvements in the railways nationally and regionally since privatisation with passenger growth being particularly strong in the north of England with both franchises experiencing greater numbers of passengers than predicted when the franchises were last let.

Hammond added: “We want to ensure that the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises we deliver best serve the needs of the people that will use them. To that end we are working closely with Rail North, a new body bringing together the local transport authorities across the whole of the north of England, in the development of them. This consultation is being carried out jointly with Rail North and aims to capture the views of the wide range of stakeholders in the region.”

In the past, former transport secretary Philip Hammond suggested that by having both existing franchises end at the same time, it “could allow for these franchises to be combined, or split in different ways”. While many local authorities in the north urged the franchises to be merged, others were less keen, including Siemens Rail Systems UK boss Steve Scrimshaw urging the DfT not to merge the franchises under devolution proposals.

Within the new consultation document there is no mention of merging the two franchises. RTM has asked the DfT for an update on its policy in this area. However, at the time of publication there had been no reply.

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